Characters

 
Pathfinder WizardBefore play begins, players develop a concept of the role they would like to play in the game. They then use the game system's character creation rules to form a representation of their characters, in terms of game mechanics. The character's statistics are recorded on a special-purpose form called a character sheet. Some systems, such as that of Feng Shui, require characters to choose from a set of pre-built template characters with only a small amount of customization allowed. Others, like the d20 System, use character classes to define most character concepts, but allow some freedom with the statistics within those classes. Still others, such as GURPS, allow the player to create their own character concepts by freely assigning statistics.

Game statistics are not a substitute for a character concept. For example, one Wild West gunfighter may become a quick drawing revolver marksman, whereas another with similar game statistics could be a mounted rifle expert. Many systems take this into account, requiring statistics to be described, such as Dogs in the Vineyard's Traits and Possessions.

Template-based systems have the advantage of easy and quick character creation. It also provides the GM with the means to spend less time approving each character for play. The sacrifice is in flexibility and concept. Templates are essentially pre-built characters that are balanced against each other and pre-approved by the game companies.

D&D Character Sheet
Class-based systems give slightly more freedom but still require a player to choose from a set number of roles for their character. The character's powers are generally set by the character class, but the specific statistics are assigned by the player.

Character point-based systems, such as Hero System, allow complete freedom of concept. The downside is that, in many cases, character creation is much more complex, making the GM spend a lot more time examining and approving each character concept.

A few games allow free-form character creation. Characteristics are simply assigned as a player sees fit, and the final result is submitted to the GM or group for approval. Free-form character creation can be implemented in any game system, but is only rarely the prescribed or assumed method.
 

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